We will only mention the ‘C’ word once in this piece. We promise!
Covid... still to this day, is wreaking havoc on our day-to-day lives. Whether you’re in the midst of a lockdown or isolated away from friends and family around the world, the knock-on effects are visible for all to see.
However, in 2020, Public Outreach had one of its most successful years to date which was a huge surprise, as were the ways that we got there.
With a previous workforce that was made up significantly by Working Holiday Visas, it was never going to be the case that all of our staff would remain.
We knew we had to evolve and really push ourselves into uncharted territory.
Whether you’re trying to find strategies and methods to transition your own team, or trying to better understand how an ‘agile agency workforce’ can positively impact your own fundraising campaigns - Check out our top three tips below from our managers who were at the forefront of change.
To appeal to a different demographic of staff, you need to start at the very beginning - The recruitment process. With a large portion of Working Holiday Visa employees repatriating to their homeland, we had to get creative with our recruitment process.
As we transitioned to WFH, it allowed us to broaden our search from the Melbourne CBD, where our Australian contact centre was based, to rural areas in the country.
This meant we suddenly had a massive influx of Australian employees who weren’t restricted by long-distance commutes.
Our interview process had to be harnessed to ensure we could demonstrate the PO identity to candidates from arms length.
We shifted to using a video interview service, meaning we could bring PO into prospects home office spaces, with questions being pre-recorded by a diverse range of staff. This was the first step to cementing the PO culture in new recruits.
The outcome of this process has meant we have been able to recruit more locally-based staff than ever before! Currently, our call centres are a 95% Australia/Kiwi workforce. In addition to this - in terms of age, we’ve got the most age-diverse staff body seen in the past 7 years.
Through this we’ve seen stronger connections between supporters and fundraisers. Due to the more diverse make-up, we’re finding it easy to cater to different individuals. As we often say: you might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but try to have as many tea leaf options as you can so you can at least get mighty close!
Our second transition tip is for staff initiatives/team bonding exercises. In order to achieve a consistently high performing culture, we have always put a strong presidence on creating good connections throughout our teams.
As all fundraisers reading this know, our industry has it’s unbeatable highs, mixed in with those difficult lows. So having a supportive network throughout is key to the success of any organisation in our industry.
To create that gel we have traditionally had ‘in office’ events such as drinks after work on a Friday, or a meal out as a team. With a more spread out, demographically diverse workforce, it required a new way of thinking.
Our day-to-day engagement activities such as brain energizing games, morning yoga sessions and team meetings were the first step.
We then coupled these with ‘bigger picture’ engagement projects, such as the Strava Challenge. In the month of March, our staff collectively walked, ran or crawled over 1,000km winning us the prize of a $500 donation to give to Aotearoa charity, She Is Not Your Rehab.
This had members of staff from rural Australia engaging with contact centre staff in Queenstown, Aotearoa. Members of staff who would have previously never interacted with each other.
The new initiatives focused on improving ‘mind, body & soul’, promoting creativity and inclusivity. The knock-on effect meant fundraisers from a wide range of demographics were able to connect, which had a positive impact on the PO culture overall.
Our third tip is to really consider career development opportunities. With all the distractions of the last year - the lockdowns, the isolation, the individual challenges, we’ve all had days of low motivation. We’re human after all.
However, we saw this as an opportunity. As Public Outreach grew, there was already a need for the next generation of Team Leaders to step up. The trick was making sure this was clearly defined for staff so that they could feel like they were a part of that journey.
Since we implemented our new Leadership Development Programme, we have promoted 6 new Team Leaders in Australia alone.
We successfully shifted the focus away from the role just being “a fun thing to do (perhaps short-term)”, to the achievable opportunities that being a great fundraiser presents as a career, not just a job.
In essence: Look at your team, identify their goals and ensure that achievable progressions are clearly laid out. The end result will ultimately provide better outcomes for both you and them.
More than 16 months on, our original ideas have turned into a seamless and organic transition to large-scale Work From Home (WFH) as well as a complete shift in the demographic make-up of our fundraisers.
Our proudest achievement was in being able to do all of this without sacrificing our organisational identity, and in fact our identity was a core reason behind our success.
Identity meant that our ideas went from belief → to seamless transition → to fully-fledged outcomes which we have no plan in stopping.
There’s no definitive answer on how to be successful in making a big cultural shift within your workforce. These steps are the tip of the iceberg in regards to the changes we attempted.
Not all were successful, but for the cloud of 2020-21, the silver lining has been the effort and commitment to protecting our team & our culture.
We’d love to hear how you’ve implemented similar strategies, or if you have any new groundbreaking ideas too!
Leave a comment below letting us know.